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Wheel of Initiation

Practices for Releasing Your Inner Light

Published by Bear & Company
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

A guide to personal spiritual initiation through the transformation of habitual patterns, apathy, and resistance

• Based on the Native American medicine wheel, the Vedic wheel, and the universal initiatory mandala

• Enables readers from any tradition to initiate themselves through practices of thought transformation, narrative medicine, meditation exercises, rituals, and journaling

• Facilitates breaking through personal and societal illusions that perpetuate resistance and apathy

Intentions and spiritual principles, meditation and contemplation, ritual, and risk-taking are the conditions that comprise an initiated life. Regrettably, in modern society we do not have rites of initiation that break through the personal and societal illusions that instill and perpetuate negative habits that keep us in states of resistance. Lacking initiation practices, we often remain trapped in ways of being in the world that were formed by our past conditions and attachments. We tend to identify too strongly with the status quo, which must be challenged to prevent stagnation and to encourage happiness and authenticity.

Julie Tallard Johnson shows how to become initiated into an authentic life through practices of thought transformation, cultivating attention, journaling, storytelling, and rituals found in the four directions of the universal mandala. She begins the Wheel of Initiation in the South, where initiates set their intentions; then moves into the West, where they free themselves from habitual patterns and core beliefs; then into the North, the direction of cultivating attention and unity; and finishes in the East, the direction of regeneration and initiation. Drawing upon the life experiences of those who have successfully navigated the wheel, Johnson demonstrates that once fears, assumptions, and ingrained beliefs are confronted and transformed, initiates emerge ready to reenter society with renewed energy and vision that will enrich their own lives and their communities.


Chapter 3

Following the Right God Home


As we ride the horse of intention through the Wheel for personal initiation and enter the West--the direction of purification, release, and recapitulation--what tends to meet us is our pain stories. A pain story is made up of our agreements with the pain of the past. In the West we release the past instead of carrying it on our back like a portable projector, repeatedly projecting our personal histories unless we are willing to do what it takes to end our agreements to the past. When living and reliving a pain story we follow the wrong God home.

You must know the person you are, or “a pattern that others made may prevail in the world,” and “following a wrong God home, you may miss your star,” your life. This “pattern” is the past repeating itself over and over again in your life, through your pain story agreements. A culture lacking in accessible initiation processes results in a majority of people living out their pain stories.

When in agreement with the past we keep projecting the past onto the present. For example, when someone grew up unseen and unappreciated and as an adult repeatedly feels victim to an unappreciated life, they live from this pain story. Many ask, “Why does this keep happening to me?” When the questions should be, “What do I do to contribute to this pattern again and again?” “What can I do to interfere with this pattern and create a new story for myself?” One doesn’t need a therapist to be free from the past. One needs the tools (sometimes afforded through therapy) that allow you to be aware of your pain story along with a willingness to practice one’s life principles.

A well-known African proverb reminds us that the medicine for the wound is right next to the wound. The medicine is next to the patterns and habitual ways that keep the pain going in our life.

This suggests that you first trust your take on experiences (trust your intuition) and, second, keep an honest appraisal of how you are doing with your life. Throughout the wheel you choose to be the principle witness of how your initiation is going. You have been with yourself since the beginning of time--you know where you slip up, get lazy, go into denial, and get habitual. Remember to practice compassionate inquiry into your pain story. It won’t help to judge yourself; this will only increase the hold the pain story has on you.

Your Story Up Until Now

Take the South exercise now of writing your life story. Give yourself as much time as you need to reflect and write. You may take the time to gather pictures and other items that illicit more memories. What is your life story? Where and how does it begin? Is there a theme that threads your life together, or does it come out in chronological order? Practice writing it out as if you are going to read it and share it with others.


Nor again must we in all matters demand an explanation of the reason why things are what they are; in some cases, it is enough if the fact they are so is satisfactory.
--Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, translated by W. D. Ross

As you open up to your story, you can let go of any need to know the why of it all. This is not an investigation into why things are the way they are--why you were hurt, why you are stuck, why you repeat this and that, why your mother didn’t want you. To focus on the why results in the blame and shame game. The why question really asks, who’s to blame?

Instead, we focus on the “what” of it all. What happened? What is happening now? What is the relationship between what happened in the past and what is being repeated now? What wants to happen now? What led me up to this place in my life?

The Three Wanderers

Three wanderers were walking on a path, leading out from the deep woods and into the green, growing meadow and beyond. As they walked they all came upon a broken jar. One could see that the jar, when intact, was ornate and beautiful. It had golden thread throughout and all the colors of the rainbow subtly burned into it. Next to the jar was a large rock. The first wanderer approached the jar and rock and immediately got angry and began asking how such a thing could happen? She asked herself, “did the rock hit the jar or the jar the rock?” He felt she had to know, but the rock or jar wasn’t speaking. She stood there angry and scared needing to know how such a terrible thing could happen. She didn’t move.

The second wanderer looked and immediately became depressed. “Why would God let such a thing happen?” “Why did this have to happen?” “Why is it here on the path?” “Why, why, why?” This wanderer went into a deep state of confusion and depression and also did not move.

The third wanderer saw the rock sitting next to the beautiful jar and simply noticed what had happened. The jar was broken. The rock was next to the jar. She realized that she didn’t know the how of it because it had already happened. She didn’t really care about the why of it all because it wouldn’t answer any of the more important questions. She just noticed that the jar was broken. She bent down and picked up the broken shards, placing them in her pocket. She moved the rock a bit to the side of the path and walked on. As she continued on down the path, the shards jingled in her pocket making the sound of wind chimes.

The other two remained behind.

About The Author

A licensed psychotherapist and creative writing teacher, Julie Tallard Johnson has kept journals since the age of sixteen discovering how the writer and spiritual path are one and the same. She has spent the last thirty years working with individuals and groups to help them discover a spiritual practice that brings them a sense of purpose and happiness. The author of many books for teens including Teen Psychic, Spiritual Journaling, The Thundering Years, I Ching for Teens and Making Friends, Falling in Love, which was recognized by the New York Public Library as one of the best books for teens, she lives in Wisconsin.
Visit the author's web site at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Bear & Company (July 12, 2010)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781591439691

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Raves and Reviews

“For me the highest plane of creativity is found in one’s practice, and Julie offers the reader a real means to follow through on one’s creative and spiritual intentions. The read is straightforward and gratifying; the pilgrimage itself a worthwhile, even required engagement for the spiritual hero.”

– Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art and The Legend of Bagger Vance

Wheel of Initiation combines wisdom and practices from multiple religions and belief systems, and it gleans valuable insights from a wide range of teachers. Stories of the author’s own initiation rituals and daily practices are combined with those from her students, people she has led in yearlong initiation circles. This book is both practical and inspiring, and deserves a wide readership.”

– Meg Cox, ritual expert and author of The Book of New Family Traditions

Wheel of Initiation is a well-written guidebook for transformation and intentionally living life’s most profound questions. Drawing upon a wealth of ancient teachings and stories of awakening, Julie Tallard Johnson guides you on a pilgrimage toward spiritual growth, meaning, and wisdom. Anyone of any faith will greatly benefit from the timeless journey and practices offered in these wise and kind pages.”

– Donald Altman, author of The Mindfulness Code, Living Kindness, and Meal by Meal

“A useful and insightful guide to the purification and transformation of the bodymind, drawing upon the mandala wisdom of ancient indigenous traditions to create a practical alchemy of initiation and therapy for these modern times and our challenging ways of life.”

– Peter Gold, author of Navajo and Tibetan Sacred Wisdom: The Circle of the Spirit

“In her extraordinary new book, Wheel of Initiation, Julie Tallard Johnson gives ancient wisdom a contemporary and relevant new voice. While so many of us today anguish over the need to ‘find ourselves,’ Johnson adeptly points out that ‘everything in nature knows what to do with its life.’ Therefore, she says, our true task is to become who we already are and fulfill that destiny. To that end, Wheel of Initiation is an essential guide that can lead us back into the magnificence of our own inner realm.”

– Dara Marks, PhD, author of Inside Story

“The Wheel takes us out into the diverse directions of life/space. The Initiation leads us in, to the unifying point of source/center. This ceremony requires great courage, the courage to give yourself fully and SIMULTANEOUSLY to Father Sky and Mother Earth. The courage to let spirit tear you apart.”

– Shinzen Young, author of The Science of Enlightenment

The Wheel of Initiation carries a powerful spirit of love and wisdom shared in an absolutely fresh, humble, and beautiful way. I was moved from the first words I read. It’s clear that Julie Tallard Johnson walks her talk.”

– Tav Sparks, author of Movie Yoga and The Wide Open

“Hang on, this could be a bumpy ride . . . because somewhere between the life you are experiencing and the life you dare to dream, hides a precious jewel waiting to be unearthed. With Julie’s patience, compassion, and wisdom you are respectfully guided and facilitated to journey into the Wheel of Initiation . . . to the places that scare you, but ultimately to the places that heal you. A highly recommended course to mend your soul.”

– Amy Bendorf Schertz, MS, LMFT

The Wheel of Initiation opened me up to all the possibilities of living a satisfied existence, to being awake in a modern world that rewards us for being asleep. I now have the tools and practices to guide my spiritual growth and to effectively shift my behaviors so that I can live a life filled with satisfaction.”

– Tracy Thaden, owner, Windhorse Spirit Vineyards and Winery

“Julie Tallard Johnson has once again given us a profound tool for self-exploration. The initiation processes, with Native American, Buddhist, and Christian teachings, were instrumental in bringing my power and wisdom to the surface. I have been able to integrate these teachings into my field of medicine. I believe the health of the individual and society benefits by the in-depth exploration of the self as promoted in the Wheel of Initiation.”

– Mary Ellen Sabourin, M.D.

“The lessons within these pages remind us of our humanity, encourage us to break the ‘rules,’ and challenge us to live a more conscious and ethical life. Julie guides the reader on a journey toward a life inspired by compassion, wisdom, and presence and informed by the experiences of those who have gone before us. The path we choose is up to each of us.”

– Katie Ishmael, Hall of Fame and NCAA track winner

The Wheel of Initiation is not for the weak of heart! But, if you are ready to bring movement into your life, to direct your life with intention, this is a powerful venue utilizing an eclectic mix of spirituality, therapeutic support, and shamanism. Step in to the wheel with courage, initiate yourself, and experience nothing short of a life transformation!”

– Linda Tyllo, founder of Destina Health

“For me, entering the Wheel with Julie and our circle was the beginning of an awareness and excavation of long held beliefs. It was like having the threads of an aware life weave our own meaningful tapestry.”

– Jeanie Blessing, Nurse, 2009 Initiation Course

"Julie's journey through the Wheel of Initiation is an intelligent, artful synthesis of diverse cultures and traditions, now manifested in a written work of beautiful language and feeling. Having gone through the Initiation Course with Julie, we can say that the changes it brings about are like the shift of tectonic plates. Sign on, let go, and enjoy the Wheel's journey!"

– Michael and Angela Zolper, Doctors of Chiropractic and owners of the Cafe of Life

“. . . Julie Johnson guides us through setting our intentions, then letting go of our past core beliefs and habitual patterns, and on to cultivating our attention and sense of unity, and finally to a regeneration and initiation of a new view of ourselves and our relationship to each other and the world we live in.”

– Rahasya Poe, Lotus Guide, November 2010

“There are many books on spiritual initiation and others on the Medicine wheel, but this one I found to be well organized and extremely useful for both the newly intentioned as well as those who have been distracted, disheartened, stumbled or lost their way.”

– Jennifer Hoskins, New Dawn Magazine, January 2011

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